Separating fact from fiction, or debating “he said, she said” scenarios can be a challenge, and second-guessing the motivation behind research that might happen to disagree with your point of view can be nothing more than a self-centered distraction that serves little more than to stroke our own ego. The latter is often the case when it comes to heated debates between supporters of natural grass and proponents of artificial turf.
A relatively recent independent research study into the environmental impact of natural grass sports fields revealed that well-maintained grass is a more sustainable, environmentally- and carbon-friendly product than artificial alternatives.
The research, carried out in the Netherlands and funded by Plantum, revealed that with a playing intensity of an average of 450 hours per year – plus the use of improved grass varieties and improved maintenance practices – grass is by far the best solution for the vast majority of sports fields in terms of costs, reported Colin Hoskins in the U.K.’s Goundsman magazine. Plantum is a Dutch association for the plant reproduction material sector active in breeding, propagation, production and trade of seeds, bulbs, tubers, cuttings and young plants.
In addition, Hoskin indicated the report stated “natural grass achieves something that artificial grass simply cannot: ‘fixing’ greenhouse gases from the air in the soil and providing oxygen in return. Add to this the emotional value of grass – its feel, smell, the way it responds, its cooling effects in hot weather and the considerably reduced risk of injury – and the benefits are clear, according to the research findings.”
The study also showed how that environmental burden is increased by the relatively short usable life of synthetic pitches and the often underestimated maintenance they require.
“We know that grass has many environmental benefits, but to date we have been unable to accurately quantify the impact of the various inputs that contribute to sports turf management, such as fertilizer applications and mowing,” says Stuart Staples, the international technical manager who works with Everruis, a supplier of specialty fertilizers, plant protection products and grass seed to the sports turf industry. “Now, for the first time, we can quantify the total environmental impact of a natural turf sports pitch. As a result, we can take a fresh look at every aspect of its management. It also gives innovators, manufacturers and turf managers the opportunity to focus on technologies, products and turf management practices which will bring us closer to being a carbon neutral industry.”
Plantum’s booklet GRASS really is green – Working toward sustainable sports fields provides an interesting overview of the conclusions reached by the research in question.